DaPoPo Theatre Archive (2004 – 2020 and beyond)

An ongoing project of documentation and collective remembering, by Kristi Anderson, Luke Hathaway, Quincy Russell, Garry Williams, and Claire Yurkovich; with support from the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, Saint Mary’s University


DaPoPo Theatre: An Archive in Process

by Luke Hathaway


K’jipuktuk/Halifax, fall 2020 — “I walked into 1313 Hollis as an eager master’s student, poet, and queer-identifying individual in dire need of some creative energy,” Claire Yurkovich writes, of the day on which she, Garry William, Quincy Russell, Kristi Anderson and I began this archival work:


It was early November, and as I rushed from my apartment building to Hollis Street on the morning of the 11th, the wind was just brisk enough to let me know that I should retire my fall jacket soon. Picking up my pace, I walked with an intensity that I had not experienced in a while — an excitement that is rare for a master’s student and even rarer in the current pandemic. …


I love that Yurkovich begins her article about the archives with this image of the wind. Archives as we’re wont to picture them (the rare book vault, the special collection) are windless places: breathless, dusty, climate-controlled …. This windlessness preserves collections, but as scholars know, it is only when the vault is opened and the destroying air let in that life returns: the disused items are reanimated, quite literally, by the body and breath of the researcher (scholar, artist, inquirer) who lays their hands upon them.


In these pandemic days in which we’re taught to be wary of touching, of wind, of breath — in which so much of our artistic making is forced to happen, if it can happen at all, in the disembodied realm of the internet, it felt like an act of hopeful resistance to gather in a room and, even with all the COVID protocols in place (the anxious social distances, the awful smell of Lysol wipes), to insist on laying hands on actual things: a slip of paper, a photographic print, a three-ring binder, an envelope….


Yurovich writes of the surprise of “the sheer amount of material” that greeted her upon her entrance into 1313 Hollis. Williams and Russell had laid out their finds on folding tables there: fifteen years’ worth of programs and ticket stubs and correspondence and memorabilia, exhumed from basement shoeboxes and study shelves. It was, to quote the archival scholar Arlett Farge, “excessive and overwhelming, like a spring tide, an avalanche, or a flood.”


The “comparison with natural and unpredictable forces is not arbitrary,” says Farge. “When working in the archive you will often find yourself thinking of this exploration as a dive, a submersion, perhaps even a drowning … you feel immersed in something vast, oceanic.”


Swimming has its own pleasure, of course. Yurkovich, who was a competitive swimmer before turning her attention to writing, scholarship, and art, knows something of this. Then, too, there is the pleasure of the find: that gleaming object with which you surface, breathless, and which becomes for you — perhaps for others, also — a token of immersion, a symbol of the sea, a key that might re-admit one to the depths.


The entries below, with their matching photographs, are a small selection of our finds. We present them here in hopes that they will signify to the reader something not only of the overwhelming scope but also of the life-giving prolificness of the ocean from which they came.

Show poster for DaPoPo’s 2005 production of Rossum’s Universal Robots, featuring Kristi Anderson in role as Sulla. Colour photocopied on white 8.5 x 11 paper. This is one of a number of variations on this poster-theme, each featuring a different actor. Anderson recalls that this was her first DaPoPo show. It was produced at the BusStop Theatre. Anderson: The Bus Stop Theatre then was very different than it is today. My first rehearsal, I remember walking into the space and I didn’t really know what I was walking into. The first part of the theatre was fully under construction. It looked like this rundown place, with boards up, and sheets of plastic, and I remember thinking, ‘What is Garry bringing me to?’ … (Photograph by Claire Yurkovich)

Square-format colour photograph by John Haney, showing the cast of the inaugural DaPoPo production, Four Actors in Search of a Nation, clowning at the Wuhlheide S-Bahn station in Berlin, Nov. 2004. Left to right: Amanda Jernigan (Luke Hathaway), Steph Bernston, Christopher Cohoon, and Garry Williams. This production was rehearsed and produced at the Busstop Theatre shortly after Howard Beye had acquired the building (the space was still very much under renovation/construction), then toured to Berlin. The journey to Berlin was legendarily difficult: there was a blizzard, a flight-delay…. Of this photograph, Hathaway says: We had just completed our first, sleep-deprived Berlin performance, and had been issued payment by the FEZ Wuhlheide. Payment improved morale. (Photograph by Claire Yurkovich)

A ’zine designed by Trevor Poole: on octavo-folded 11x17” white paper; the focus is Café DaPoPo, ‘Theatrical Treats, Tailored to Taste, Ordered à la Carte’. Customers would order from a ‘menu’ of theatrical offerings (starters, mains, dessert); six to seven performers, who had pooled their set pieces, would provide. The performance would be staged in a dining establishment; audience members would be billed for the performances they had ordered. Garry Williams: This little zine … attempted to capture what the performance was, documentation of it, et cetera. When fully unfolded, it presents the original Café DaPoPo menu, as designed for presentation at Mollyz Diner. Williams: I had been talking to the owner, Doug Melanson, about our need for a fundraiser, and he offered his café as a venue space. I went away with the idea of leaning into the diner space; we would perform under the bar, over a table, out the window ... An invitation to our audience/patrons to participate in the art they actually wanted to see. (Photograph by Claire Yurkovich)

Promotional material for Café DaPoPo, designed by Trevor Poole, c. 2007. A tiny amber-coloured manilla envelope labelled “DaPoPo Theatre Presents / Café DaPoPo / Theatrical treats tailored to taste / ordered à la carte.” Photographed with its contents: a fold-out write-up on DaPoPo Theatre and Café DaPoPo, plus a tiny photographic print showing a small Shakespeare-like hand puppet, seated on drapery. Williams recalls that there were six variations on this promotional piece, with photographs signifying various different Café menu items, which were left at locations around Halifax (cafés, Theatre Nova Scotia, north-end locations, community hubs); the idea was that one could collect them all. In this case, the menu item signified was a Shakespeare-sonnet puppet-show. (Photograph by Claire Yurkovich)

Black and white photocopied 8.5 x 11 sheet, a “Weekly Bulletin” from the 2015 Live-in Festival, “Further to the Left.” Quincy Russell: That was the first Live-in I was involved with, and I provided, along with my friend and colleague Coco Harris — we provided restaurant and café fare and catering for the entire month. DaPoPo gave us an honorarium and we provided box lunches for artists and visiting artists, pop-up restaurants with world fusion-infused food — all vegan, as well — and also provided café concessions at every event. All from our house that we lived in together; we were making food constantly…. I think we transported it all by bike trailer, too.

Hathaway: Do you remember any particular meal or dish you were proud of?

Russell: I remember we had an Ethiopian-inspired night with injera and a bunch of stews…. And I remember specifically Guillermo Verdecchia as a visiting artist that year, and having a welcoming dinner for him where we gathered the whole team and basically offering a restaurant experience at the Living Room…. (Photograph by Claire Yurkovich)

Black ink drawing by Hugo Dann, inscribed to “Bill, Garry, Lee-Anne, Michael, et al.,” from “one queer Jesus freak to another” — this on the occasion of the opening of the DaPoPo production Jesus Is a Faggot (2014). (Photograph by Claire Yurkovich)